In a move that is likely to bring relief to thousands of home owners along Noida Expressway, a committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) has recommended that the Eco-Sensitive Zone around Okhla Bird Sanctuary stretch no further than 1.2 km with the DND flyway as its northern boundary.
Following a meeting on June 9, the MoEF committee recommended that the DND flyway be made the landmark to define the boundary of the eco-sensitive zone around the bird sanctuary for the sake of public knowledge. Such an ESZ is likely to have little or no impact on the large number of apartments that have come up in the area and will leave the bulk of residential and industrial sectors in Noida out of its ambit.
Describing the area enclosed between the sanctuary’s northern boundary and the DND flyway as a “good wetland” that is a good habitat for the spillover population of resident and migratory birds, the committee noted that the wetland was largely undisturbed and “ requires protection to a certain degree”.
In its report submitted to the MoEF, the committee recommended that “the area of the Yamuna river and floodplain between northern boundary of the sanctuary and the DND flyway up to the point where the bridge over Yamuna ends in the northwest should be included in the eco-sensitive zone of the sanctuary”. The report was submitted after a team comprising committee members — joint director (wildlife) in MoEF Shiv Pal Singh, divisional forest officer in the Gautam Buddh Nagar forest division K K Singh and DCF, Delhi, Nishith Saxena — visited the Okhla Bird Sanctuary on June 27.
Top government sources confirmed that the ESZ around the sanctuary will be notified at the earliest and will be largely in keeping with recommendations made by the committee. The boundaries will be more clearly spelled out in terms of latitude and longitude before the ESZ is notified.
The committee, during its field visit to the area, had observed that the wetland area north of the DND flyway was about 1,200 m away from the northern boundary of the sanctuary. “Although this area is likely to be visited by migratory birds, it is at least 1,200 m away from the sanctuary (and) does not appear to be appropriate area to be included in the Eco Sensitive Zone of the sanctuary. It is further strengthened by the fact that the DND flyway is a barrier in the continuity of the habitat of the sanctuary,” the report states.
The Okhla sanctuary covers nearly 4 sqkm and is situated at the entrance of Noida in Gautam Buddh Nagar. It is at the point where the Yamuna enters the state from Delhi. Notified as a sanctuary in 1990, it is now one of the 466 important bird areas in the country.
The ESZ issue caught on in a big way when National Green Tribunal last year restrained the Noida Authority from issuing completion certificates to constructions within a 10-km radius of the sanctuary. The NGT order was based on a directive issued by the National Board for Wildlife in 2005, stating that the area within a 10-km radius of sanctuaries is to be considered as eco-sensitive zones.
The issue has agitated builders and home owners alike and representations had even been made recently to PM Narendra Modi.